The Role of ‘A’ishah in the History of Islam Volume 1

The Role of ‘A’ishah in the History of Islam0%

The Role of ‘A’ishah in the History of Islam Author:
Publisher: Naba Publication (www.nabacultural.org)
Category: Islamic Personalities

The Role of ‘A’ishah in the History of Islam

This book is corrected and edited by Al-Hassanain (p) Institue for Islamic Heritage and Thought

Author: Allamah Sayyid Murtadha Askari
Publisher: Naba Publication (www.nabacultural.org)
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The Role of ‘A’ishah in the History of Islam

The Role of ‘A’ishah in the History of Islam Volume 1

Author:
Publisher: Naba Publication (www.nabacultural.org)
English

This book is corrected and edited by Al-Hassanain (p) Institue for Islamic Heritage and Thought

Author’s preface

The motive for writing this book

“And if Allah pleases He would certainly make you a single nation.”

The Qur’an, chapter an-Nahl, Verse 93

Many researchers in noble traditions of the Prophet of Islam have, since long ago, realized that there exist wide differences between some of these traditions themselves, and also between them and the verses of the divine Book. The result was that some of the past scholars decided to account for and interpret these differences in order to remove objections to the Prophet and his traditions, and they wrote books entitled:“Ta’wil mukhtalif al-hadith” (11) ,“Bayan mushkil al-hadith” (12) ,“Bayan mushkilat al-athar” (13) , etc., which roused the hostility of such critics as atheists and Christian missionaries, and a group of orientalists so that by reliance on the contradictions and differences of these traditions, they could reproach the Prophet of Islam and deride and criticize his religion. But both groups were ignorant of the fact that the great collection of traditions, especially those which contradict each other, have not been written in the same style to make them confident that all of them have come from and have been stated exactly by the Prophet so that these could be subjected to a single general survey. They are a collection of several different traditions, which have reached us from various narrators. A researcher must first classify them in connection with the type of narrators. For example, the traditions related to ‘A’ishah Umm al-Mu’minin, Anas(14) , Abu Hurayrah(15) , ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Umar(16) must each be collected separately and compared in conjunction with the traditions of other narrators who have quoted from the Prophet (with due attention to the life story, views and ideas of each of them) in order to discover truth.

I realized this matter when I was investigating the historical events of early Islam through traditions. I was particularly attracted by the traditions quoted from ‘A’ishah Umm al-Mu’minin, and I was convinced that the history of Islam from the beginning of the Prophet’s ordainment until the allegiance with Yazid ibn Mu‘awiyah will not be understood properly unless Umm al-Mu’minin’s traditions which are one of the most important source of the history of early Islam, are studied and evaluated impartially, and solely for the sake of finding the truth.

I believe also that understanding some verses of the heavenly Book as well as Islamic jurisprudence for whose explanation reference is made to the Ahadith of Umm al-Mu’minin depends on a previous study of these traditions.

As I intended to discuss and organize the history of the critical Islamic period, I was obliged to give priority to the evaluation of these traditions before dealing with other topics. A discussion of such matters especially concerning the leaders of early Islam involves certain difficulties which are not very easy for a Muslim scholar to remove.

Let us investigate impartially

The first difficulty for an oriental Muslim writer is to deal with views with which he has been accustomed and brought up, and which have influenced his life and mentality and taken deep roots in all aspects of his existence, as well as the beliefs possessed by his society.

He regards the personalities of early Islam to be superior to other human beings, and considers their time and the people of their time more holy, and his belief about them and their time is different from that about others and their time.

If such a writer is unable to remove this difficulty in his discussion and research, his subject will become just the defense of his beliefs instead of seeking truth.

As I realized this fact, I decided especially in this connection, not to give attention to my feelings concerning the respect I felt for ‘A’ishah Umm al-Mu’minin as a consort of the Prophet, observe no discrimination between revered Islamic personalities and others who happened to enter the discussion, and attribute to them various feelings and motives that all people have, so that after analyzing the events which have occurred during the life of Umm al-Mu’minin, I would be able to discuss and survey her words and traditions for the discovery of truth alone.

Although I do not claim complete success in this determination, I have used my utmost endeavor for this purpose, and I leave it to others to judge. But I take God as my witness in saying that only the hope of assisting the scholars to investigate the true story of early Islam and the Quranic injunctions, has been my motive in the study and survey of this subject.

Islam or faith and belief

Secondly, if he succeeds in removing the above difficulty in his investigation, there figures another problem, namely the effect of the publication of such topics on coordination and unity among the Muslims. Now this question arises that since with the efforts of the strivers and reformers of Islam, the hopes and expectations of various groups of Muslims have, to some extent, been fulfilled and they are brought close to each other and the means of their brotherhood and solidarity have been provided, will it be proper to describe in detail the past events and publish matters which not only produce violent refutation and criticism but also rouse dormant feelings and produce aversion and hatred?

But opposed to this question, the following matter must be brought up which cannot be easily disregarded. If on the excuse of the futility of benevolent reformers’ effort, such a discussion and investigation would not be acceptable, in that case, no one will engage in scientific research, and this would be an unpardonable injustice to knowledge, consequently, the facts of Islam would, as in former centuries, remain hidden behind the veil of mental rigidity and futile fanaticism, and as a result the discord and differences among various Islamic sects would manifest themselves more intensely. This is certainly not something to be approved by reformers and those who are interested in Islamic solidarity.

Consequently, while we sincerely desire the success of our Muslim brethren in laying aside all differences and uprooting dispersion, in response to the call of the benevolent reformers of Islam, we feel a particular respect for learning and knowledge and regard them as belonging to a different category; for, those who have endeavored constantly to lay the foundations of Muslim unity and solidarity, proclaim that solidarity under the sacred banner of Islam, while Islam, in itself, has no international political motivation. But it is a faith and belief in a set of realities born only out of a perfectly scientific criticism, discussion and research, and in concealing those facts under such excuses and pretexts, no single and firm faith, or belief would be produced, and the proper and direct course of Islam would not be distinguished from the pitfall of perdition and aberration.

I beg God Almighty to grant us success in following the right path, for, it is He who guides all to the right path.

Deep Islamic solidarity

The third difficulty that arises is the outcry that is the main stimulant of that faith and rises from the heart. It is a faith in the fact that only Islam should govern the Muslim society and serve as the foundation of our social solidarity. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to make constant efforts for reviving Islamic life and give it a solid foundation.

O strivers in the way of truth, may God grant you success! Do you not invite all the Muslims to return to Islam, and submit to its principles and enforce its laws? What is the way of understanding Islamic principles and injunctions? Is it other than a survey and research, from the beginning of its history, and discovery of the true traditions of the great Prophet as well as a study of the life and ideas of their narrators, so that by this means, we may comprehend the cause of descent of the Quranic verses and thereby understand the Islamic injunctions which we should obey and call on others to act upon?

As we are bound to act upon the injunctions of Islam, we must first obtain a knowledge about them, since action is not possible without knowledge.

It can be stated with complete confidence that the effort for Islamic solidarity, and steadfastness in bringing back Islam to the Muslim society, are not incompatible with the discussion and investigation of the history of Islam and a careful survey of the traditions of its Prophet. On the contrary, it serves as its basis and both subjects serve as complements to one another, for, bringing Islam back to the Muslim society would not be possible without creating harmony among the Muslims, and understanding the meaning of the Quranic verses and the Prophet’s utterances as well as history of Islam.

Similarly, so long as there exists no faith in the necessity of bringing Islam back to the Muslim society, no friendship and proper brotherhood will be established among the Muslims, since if this were not so, what would be the basis of harmony among the Muslims? What would give them unity and the common direction? Moreover, creation of brotherhood is not possible except through making the Muslims understand each other’s views, and take to proper criticism in order to discover and follow the truth. In that case, these words of God in the Qur’an would be applicable to them:

“Give good news to those who listen to the word, then follow the best of it; those are they whom Allah has guided and those it is who are the men of understanding.” (17)

This is our call and we beg God to enable us and all our Muslim brethren to follow these noble words. The difficulties mentioned above have been peculiar to the Muslims.

Worship of ancestors

In the history of Islam, like the history of other nations and religions of the world, in addition to what we have already mentioned, there have always been three other great obstacles which have acted as barriers to many seekers of truth and historians, checking them from following truth and knowledge.

The first and the foremost difficulty have been the habit of excessive respect for and even worship of ancestors. Since history was written, man has always been accustomed to show unnecessary and undue reverence to those who have gone by. This led to idolatry, and thus Nasr, Yaghuth, Wadd, Ya‘uq and Suwa‘,(18) who were good and virtuous men were respected greatly by their contemporaries, but after their death, this respect took the form of worship.

Surprisingly, we see our good people of the past who, in various periods of their lives, go so far in their rejection and criticism that they issue verdicts of death for each other and consider legitimate shedding the blood of their rivals and followers. But after the passage of long years, the present generation has gone to this in its reverence and respect for them that they do not even allow any survey and investigation of their words and deeds to themselves and to others, thus preventing discovery of truth altogether.

Blind prejudice

The second barrier is improper, indecent and, at the same time, comic prejudice, which serves as a barrier keeping man, confined within the wall of darkness and ignorance. This is an altar of sacrifice where we have witnessed many victims throughout human history in every country and every period.

Religious fanaticism twice turned the city of Rayy into ruins at the beginning of the seventh century AH.(19) The Hanafites and Shafi‘ites rose first against the Shi‘ites and cruelly massacred them. Then the Shafi‘ites attacked the Hanafi sect and shed their blood, with the result that houses were demolished and the city was destroyed. This is an example of the altar of sacrifice due to fanaticism. We can easily find thousands of victims in history as a result of ugly, ill-omened, touching and funny prejudice.

Demagogues

The third obstacle is the most hateful of them, namely the influence exerted by those in power in various periods of history. It was they who by using bayonets and their position did whatever they desired, and forcefully and by means of demagogy and affectation blocked the way of discussion and investigation, and since the year 655 formally barred the nation’s jurisprudence from practicing jurisprudence.(20)

I do not know whether now that after eight centuries preliminary steps have been taken to prove the way of practicing jurisprudence, and some progress has been made in this respect, the time has not come to permit the Muslims to resort to discussion and investigation, too, or whether they would do nothing but imitate their predecessors.

No! the situation would not continue to remain so, since owing to the constant efforts of reformers, the light of knowledge has made truth evident to an undeniable extent, and the time will arrive very soon when people will laugh at our suffering for not being allowed any discussion and investigation, in the same way that we are now laughing at the indecent obstinacy and fanaticism of the people of Rayy in that period.

Beside these obstacles, on hearing the praise of someone we have got into the habit of closing our ears to a criticism of him, or when we resort to fault-finding and criticism, we cannot afford to hear a praise of him.

But I will introduce ‘A’ishah Umm al-Mu’minin on the basis of what I have found in traditions and history, whether this introduction takes the form of criticism or praise. If someone is not content with this description and cannot bear the difficulties already mentioned (which are mutually felt by both the writer and reader), then he can hand over the book to another person who is able to remove those obstacles out of this way.

Indeed, anyone who wishes to recognize Umm al-Mu’minin through history and traditions and analyze her personality so far as it is possible through the study of traditions, the following pages which describe various periods of this lady of early Islam are at his disposal. It is worthier to follow truth. May the right spirit be blessed!

Sayyid Murtada ‘Askari

Baghdad, College of Theology